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Dietes iridioides

Fortnight lily
Iridaceae
Bulbs and bulblike plants

DIETES

These irislike plants with fans of stiff, narrow evergreen leaves form dense, long-lasting clumps. The flowers, resembling small Japanese irises, consist of three outer and three inner segments. They appear on branched stalks throughout spring, summer, and fall, sometimes well into winter in mild climates. Bloom bursts seem to occur at 2-week intervals, hence the common name “fortnight lily.” The flowers come in solid colors—white, cream, yellow; each of the three outer segments features a small blotch of contrasting orange, yellow, or brown. Each flower lasts only a day (with the exception of D. grandiflora), but the supply of flowers on a stem is seemingly endless. Excellent in permanent landscape plantings with pebbles and rocks, shrubs, and other long-lived perennials.

Plant from containers (bare rhizomes are not sold) at any time of year, setting plants about 2 ft. apart. All types look best with good soil and regular watering; but once established, they will perform satisfactorily even in poor soil or with infrequent or erratic watering. Clumps can remain undisturbed for years; when you need to divide, do so in fall or winter.

Dietes iridioides

Native to East Africa. Stems to 3 ft. tall. Waxy white flowers to 3 in. across have yellow-orange blotches, a few orange marks at bases of inner three segments; three style arms—appendages radiating from flower’s center—are usually pale violet. To prevent self-sowing and prolong bloom, break off blossoms individually. Don’t cut flower stems (they last for more than a year) until they clearly have stopped producing blooms; then cut back to lower leaf joint near base of stem.

‘John’s Runner’ is a dwarf form growing only 1–2 ft. high and 2–3 ft. wide with white flowers marked with yellow and purple. Spent flower stalks produce plantlets that root as the stalks fall over, allowing the plant to spread. For the plant sold as D. iridioides ‘Johnsonii’, see D. grandiflora.

 

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